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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

From the earliest moments of the colonial encounter, indigenous Christianity has been an object of scrutiny. This chapter examines indigenous Christianity in its connection with a founding problem of Latin American studies: the asymmetrical encounter of indigenous communities with external powers and the resulting complex of social, political, and economic entanglements is the origin story of the project. The discussion is framed around two correlated arguments. First, like many other “Spanish” forms, Christianity was quickly insinuated as a self-evident and potent component of indigenous experience. This had cosmological as well as more prosaic implications. Within this context, indigenous locality—the ground of indigenous Christianities—is best examined not as an insular embattled survival (the “closed corporate community” of classical social science), but as an ever-emergent project of cultural production undertaken always with respect to a more inclusive sacred and social universe. The second argument concerns the ways this founding entanglement has become constitutive of indigenous locality, and advocates approaching Christianity less as an index of degrees of assimilation or change, and more as a dynamic cultural resource and frame of continuing encounter that remains a generative component of an emerging indigenous modernity.

Keywords: evangelization, conversion, inculturation theology, locality, reducciones, folk Catholicism, vernacular Christianity

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